Watchdog finds clearing of protesters from park wasn't for Trump photo op

Brunilde Fioravanti
Giugno 10, 2021

US Park police started planning to clear Lafayette park for new fencing hours before learning of former President Trump's plans to walk to St. John's Church, a new report reveals.

The demonstrators were protesting the death of George Floyd, who died after a then-Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and pinned him to the ground for about 9 1/2 minutes.

Media reported at the time of the incident that police had cleared Lafayette Park of protestors in order to allow for Trump to stage a photo opportunity at a church.

"They had decided ... to clear the park of protesters hours before ... so a contractor could install some anti-scale fencing, and that decision was made irrespective of what Trump chose to do", he added, noting that there was "no evidence whatsoever" the decision was related to Trump.

NBC's Ken Dilanian joined host Chuck Todd on Wednesday to detail a finding that - contrary to reporting at the time - authorities didn't clear Lafayette Park a year ago on behalf of then-President Donald Trump. "Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the USPP and the Secret Service in the operation to clear and secure areas near the park", the report continues.

The conclusions, which deny any political influence on decisions and cite fog of war confusion for any missteps, are likely to be dismissed as insufficient by critics of last summer's crackdown.

U.S. Park Police also did not know that Mr. Trump would potentially be leaving the White House and crossing Lafayette Park until "mid-to late afternoon" on June 1, hours after the contractor had arrived to begin installation, according to the report.

It points out that "the USPP and the Secret Service did not use a shared radio channel to communicate" and determines that "weaknesses in communication and coordination may have contributed to confusion during the operation".

Demonstrators had gathered in the park near the White House for days as part of mass protests against police brutality and racism in the USA, following the killing of black man George Floyd.

"Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for completely and totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park", Trump said.

"The USPP operations commander said the attorney general asked him, 'Are these people still going to be here when POTUS [President of the United States] comes out?'" according to the report.

The Park Police official said he hadn't known until then that Trump would be entering the park that evening.

"Are you freaking kidding me?" the commander exclaimed, according to the report.

The inspector general said the office did not seek to interview Barr, White House personnel, Federal Bureau of Prisons officers, or personnel from the Secret Service or Metropolitan Police Department. "Furthermore, we found that the USPP does not have a detailed dispersal warning policy applicable to operations like the one that occurred on June 1 and that this may have led to the ineffective warnings issued to the crowd that day", the report states.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told Inspector General Mark Greenblatt in a letter last month that she is establishing a task force to review and improve its law enforcement programs. The protests continued on May 30 and 31 and were mostly peaceful during the day.

The inspector general additionally laid out recommendations should similar situations arise in the future.

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